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NASA Space

NASA Puts Its New Spacesuit Design To a Public Vote 127

An anonymous reader writes "NASA, in collaboration with ILC and Philadelphia University, has designed three different cover layers for its new spacesuit prototype, Z-2. NASA will let the public decide which of the three designs will actually be built. Voting is open through April 15, 2014, at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Here are brief descriptions of the three designs: 'The "Biomimicry" design draws from an environment with many parallels to the harshness of space: the world's oceans. Mirroring the bioluminescent qualities of aquatic creatures found at incredible depths, and the scaly skin of fish and reptiles found across the globe, this design reflects the qualities that protect some of Earth's toughest creatures. ... "Technology" pays homage to spacesuit achievements of the past while incorporating subtle elements of the future. By using Luminex wire and light-emitting patches, this design puts a new spin on spacewalking standards such as ways to identify crew members. ... "Trends in Society" is based off of just that: being reflective of what every day clothes may look like in the not too distant future. This suit uses electroluminescent wire and a bright color scheme to mimic the appearance of sportswear and the emerging world of wearable technologies.'"
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NASA Puts Its New Spacesuit Design To a Public Vote

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    They all look the same...

    • Re: Options? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:24PM (#46581073) Journal

      They're all pretty fugly. The Buzz Lightyear looking one is the only one that doesn't make the wearer look stupid.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by stoploss ( 2842505 )

        They're all pretty fugly. The Buzz Lightyear looking one is the only one that doesn't make the wearer look stupid.

        Ugh, I know. When comparing these options to the Z-1 suit at the top, I got this strange feeling like I had when comparing Windows 7 to Windows 8... "Seriously? Why can't we have the one that looks like something designed by a sane group rather than this abortion of an "upgrade"?"

        Unfortunately, the astronauts can't simply wear these inside-out to hide the horrible flair spewed all over the outside of the suit.

        • by Cryacin ( 657549 )
          What an excellent replication of the modern democratic process! What would you like to drink? Coke, Pepsi or New Coke?
        • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

          I agree the white&limegreen Z-1 looks better than all the others combined.

          More importantly, are there benefits to having bright or dark colors and can the luminescent lines be used for practical reasons?

          Assuming the visual design of these suits is irrelevant to it's usability (if not there should not be vote), why not let the astronauts decide for themselves?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        I know right, the most important thing in space is to look cool, not convenience.

        • I know right

          From wrong?? Seriously; just because our speech might sound like abject, ignorant shit does not mean we can't do a little better when we're putting words down on paper (so-to-speak)...

          Then again, as Americans, I suppose we've got ourreputation to uphold. :p

          • What an "ourreputation"?
          • How has the internet been around this long, and you still do not know the phrase "I know right"?
            I think you just the entire thread.
            You not knowing that phrase hit me for maximum damage.
            Not knowing IKR has made your body explode into a fine bloody mist because you are only a level 2 druid.
            Um... Something about cats.
            THE END
      • as per the article:

        Is the design that is selected going to fly to space? No, as the Z-series is still in the prototype or non-flight phase.

        why the **** should we care then?

      • It's fitting, since spacewalking in LEO really is just falling with style :-P

    • Kind of sad that NASA's suit R&D rollout to the public seems to be focused on case modding the exterior.

      That said, they clearly need a "retro" cover. First look at the NASA design reminded me of a book I read as a kid, "Tom Swift and his Jetmarine," where he built escape suits for his submarine in the shape of giant eggs, like Humpty-Dumpty.
    • It will be the one that the Colbert Nation votes for.

    • Yeah, the only difference appears to be the lighting placement and color. So the title is a bit misleading, should be "NASA allows public to chose what sort of lights go on the suit". It looks to be a bid to make the public feel more involved and therefor invested. Honestly, I hope it works.
  • Because (Score:5, Insightful)

    by homey of my owney ( 975234 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:19PM (#46581047)
    Good engineering is done by committee
    • From what I can tell the basic design and materials seem to be the same between them (perhaps a slight difference in materials of Biomimicry) and what you are voting on is really more of a skinning of how the suit looks and where the glowing areas are placed...

      It does seem like there is some design aspect at work though in deciding how to use the light emitting portions, I really liked the thought of the Technology suit having different designs for different suit owners, and that has practical purpose also.

    • The engineering is done. We're just voting on the colors.
  • Wow, timing. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SpectreBlofeld ( 886224 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:23PM (#46581069)

    I was working on a personal design project with very similar features, for undersea divers - an electroluminescent (EL) panel or wire system for divers to use to signal each other underwater, even at distances where hand signaling would be an issue. Different colors for different situations, and the ability to 'flash' a sort of morse code communique to one another.

    A diver's illumination would also light up or flash when air reserves reach low levels or the diver is otherwise in distress, so others could recognize the issue and come to aid.

    Feel free to steal the idea and run away with it, if anyone reading this is in the industry. Like I said, it was just a personal design project that I was planning on giving away to improve the general state of things.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Please patent it or else some assholes would patent your idea and then charge everyone lots of arms and legs to use their products.

      If you intent to give it away, owning that patent ensure that no one else can patent that idea of yours.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      How about touch screen attached to the chest. Rotated out for user access and left down to signal others and report user state as well as making control adjustments. Seeing us the upper part of the suit is rigid, attachment of the hinged screen should not be problem even for quite a large screen, adjustable stylus points can be added index and middle fingers. Vacumn wont be a problem but temperature likely will be.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Please PLEASE make a red version as well as a blue one. We need to be able to tell N7 and and Cerberus apart at a distance.

    I know you read Slashdot, NASA. Make this happen.

  • 4th choice... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by x0ra ( 1249540 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:25PM (#46581087)
    None of the above.
    • "None of the above."

      I agree. I did not care for any of the 2 designs. Further, I have to ask: what's the purpose of decorating them at all? Especially if they're all going to be the same?

      Since suits are customized for the wearer anyway, I say: let the wearer decide how to decorate the damned thing. Either that, or just put a big goddamned number on each one.

  • Planet Side (Score:3, Funny)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:29PM (#46581099)

    So how many Station Cash is each suit anyway?

  • I vote for (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BradMajors ( 995624 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:29PM (#46581103)

    NASA's 2012 Z-1 Spacesuit design.

    • Seriously? Surely those new ones just need a new logo []
    • I agree. What is wrong with the white and green? The proposed color schemes seem like they would blend into some Lunar or Martian environments. Wouldn't you want these suits to be highly visible, day or night?

  • Are these rejected uniform from the last Tron movie? All they need now is the pointless lights in the helmet to illumnate your face like BSG (both the 70s and the 00s).
    • a) Baddie uniform. b) goodie uniform. c) Star Trek uniform. If this is the attempt to envage the public in space missions, I hate to say it but it's probably pitched about right. Think X factor in space. I shudder to think about it.
  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:35PM (#46581139)

    None of what's being voted on can be considered a functional part. All that we're voting on is the cover, basically some soft armor to protect the actual suit from damage. And then all that we're voting on is the coloration patterns.

    Oh, and this is purely for the prototype - it will never even go into space. So all that the voting public is being trusted with is picking out the colors of a protective cover for a model that's only being used for testing, not actual spaceflight.

    And since pretty much 0% of the voting public are experienced aerospace engineers, that's probably all we *should* be trusted with. I know the 150 hours I've put into Kerbal Space Program certainly does not qualify *me* for designing anything that actually goes into space and needs to work properly.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I know the 150 hours I've put into Kerbal Space Program certainly does not qualify *me* for designing anything that actually goes into space and needs to work properly.

      Don't be so hard on yourself because the rockets don't work well. That can be easily solved by launching 50 rockets instead of one.

    • Moar Boosters!
    • Wait... You mean all the time I spent playing Simple Rockets [] on my Android smartphone doesn't qualify me to build rockets?

    • The "cover" or "skin" of the suit is also functional. As a systems engineer (for space-based sensors and cameras) I can think of a few requirements that need to be addressed right off the bat:

      - Visible Contrast, so that the wearer can be detected/identified by humans, from a distance
      - EM Reflectivity, so that the wearer can be detected/identified by active scan sensors (lidar/radar/whatever)
      - Customization options, so that wearers can be distinguished from one another
      - Glare reduction, so that the wearer's

      • However, all of those have already been determined. All of the presented options are functionally equivalent in all of those regards (note how each of them have illumination, for instance). While you are definitely correct that the cover can be considered a functional part, there are no functional decisions between the options we have been provided.

  • by Artifex ( 18308 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:46PM (#46581201) Journal

    They only have one option that mentions immediately practical applications in its supporting information. That's the Technology skin, with the applications being easier crew identification, etc. Precisely the only reason why you would think they would invest the resources to play with pretty lights on the surface of a prototype, right now. The others are designs that might be nice to have someday, if there are large populations in these environments that might want to express individuality and creativity.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Easier crew identification? Just put all the non essential personnel in a red shirt.

  • I really thought NASA was the future, I've fought tooth and nail with naysayers over about NASA, It was incredibly depressing the space shuttle started and ended in my lifetime and we rely on the Russians to launch new astronauts to the station.

    But this? This is the first time I've started to question my fanboy support of NASA.

    Seriously? These designs are worthy of a poll or even posting?

    • The other depressing thing about Nasa is how they've gone from launching people to the moon in the 1960's to telling people that driving their cars is going to kill the planet (Hansen was head of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies from 1981 to 2013). No wonder they're not keen on launching actual rockets - those things must emit loads of CO2. I'm surprised Hansen would go on exhaling CO2.

      It's like something out of a dystopian science fiction novel about how a once proud, space faring society descend

      • We'd be better off if it was CO2.

        Instead, the Space Shuttle Main Engines (3) burn hydrogen and liquid oxygen, emitting water vapor as it's exhaust. That's not bad.

        The Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters burn ammonium perchlorate, aluminum, and iron oxide (thermite) suspended in epoxy. This results in hydrogen chloride (among other things).

        Hydrogen Chloride + water = Hydrochloric Acid.

        All the "launch guests" were given a general safety statement in their packets of information, which includes a statement a

    • Why aren't they worth a poll? Awareness and support of NASA in the U.S. is low. Anything that NASA can do to raise awareness about themselves to the public is a Good Thing. You remember Mohawk Guy? His stupid hairdo brought a brief surge of positive public relations to NASA by way of meme. If NASA can get this (yes, silly) poll into the internet and circulating for a few weeks, they'll have gained positive PR.

      Besides, this actually makes the public feel like they're involved with NASA. Directly. Even if the

    • I feel your pain. Still, Scorch_Mechanic in another post has it right. A little something to catch the eye of the public.

      It gives teachers a chance to engage their kids. If we have any engaged teachers, that is; it could be that the last time they were engaged, they were sitting in auditoriums across America, watching the devil's-horns of the SRB's wandering from the cloud of gas that was Challenger.
  • ... we need experts to judge these designs.

    What does Mr. Blackwell have to say?

  • by WiPEOUT ( 20036 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @12:12AM (#46581331)

    Someone mentioned above that the vote has no functional meaning. I disagree.

    The glowing patterns, properly designed, can help astronauts see the relative orientation of other astronauts, particularly in low light situations. The more distinctive yet simple the pattern in terms of placement relative to the body of the wearer, the better. The first option (A) obscures this by not clearly aligning all the luminescent lines with the shape of the human body. For me, this makes "biomimicry" functionally less suitable. The third option (C) has lines on all limbs without much to distinguish between them, meaning that when observing from other orientations, there could be confusion for the observer. Granted, the illumination on the backpack mitigates this at some angles, but the second option (B) has distinctive front and back and clearly shows an observer the orientation of the wearer. Option B looks arguably most functional.

    As an added bonus, the luminescent pattern in option B can also serve to symbolise the origin of the astronauts, in the highly unlikely even they come in contact with another intelligence :) The second option's (B) "technology" pattern on the front approximates the bipedal shape of a human, while the others do not.

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      In case we ever come in contact with another intelligence, I prefer the luminescent pattern to be in the shape of an astronaut smiling while killing an alien.

      I agree the pattern can be functional, I disagree any of the designs (including B) come even close to being functional.

  • Since it will probably be quit a while before the next suit redesign, I have one suggestion.

    If you just have to have wires that light up, then having them individually change colors to reflect biological conditions would be a wiser use than just for the glow in the dark function. This way your suit could visually convey critical medical information to the rest of the crew. For instance you could monitor heart rate, respiration and pucker factor on a space walk or during the realization that you are wearing

  • Pimp my Spacesuit... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by David_Hart ( 1184661 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @12:45AM (#46581461)

    You know that the whole Pimp-my-X meme has jumped the shark when NASA scientists think that they need Tron style space suits and that they actually think they look modern and cool...

    • You know that the whole Pimp-my-X meme has jumped the shark when NASA scientists think that they need Tron style space suits and that they actually think they look modern and cool...

      Proving once again that NASA hasn't quite gotten out of the '80s yet.

  • I run with Cowboy Neal naked on Mars.

  • Multiple choice questions always miss the most important option: none of the above

  • None of us is as dumb as all of us

  • The batteries last too long!

    Quick! Add more electroluminescent wire! Hurry Robin, the the Maker Faire!

  • I see three options: Blue waterbear with spaghetti, Grey Tron waterbear, and Frumpy waterbear
    • I dunno, I kinda think they look like the ancient race of aliens from the movie Fifth Element... But I DO like the word frumpy.
  • I'll vote for the crotchless number in muted mauve. I like the suit, but could not care less about its decorative appearance. How about an orbital craft that takes off from and lands on a runway? I have my priorities, after all.
  • Is the design that is selected going to fly to space?



  • These suits all have lighting apparently, and that lighting matters. Of the three options, the one that gives the most visibility to the wearer is the third, because the lighting extends down the legs.

    Other than that, I don't think it matters which of these is built.
  • I vote for a Gundam mobile suit version :-D
  • Has it really come to this? NASA doesn't have cool technology and science to show us? It's down to fashion?

    Could we just focus on the core mission of putting humans in space without needing to rent capacity from the Russians?

    Or have we sunk so low that the only way to engage people in space flight is by letting the masses choose the outfits?

    • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

      Has it really come to this? NASA doesn't have cool technology and science to show us? It's down to fashion?

      Could we just focus on the core mission of putting humans in space without needing to rent capacity from the Russians?

      Or have we sunk so low that the only way to engage people in space flight is by letting the masses choose the outfits?

      Because the team that works on the non-flight-capable prototype suit cover design is the same one that works on the rockets, right?

      The main reason we're not putting humans in space is that funding for that is so slim. The US military's annual air conditioning costs in Afghanistan exceed NASA's entire budget. Without large public support for space exploration it simply won't be funded. This sort of outreach is part of the way of doing that. Get the public interested and the funding may follow at some point i

      • Just because they are also engaging in public outreach like this doesn't mean they're not also working on the "hard" stuff.

        Fine then. The Biomimicry one looks cool, with the Buzz Lightyear one being my second choice.

      • good answer
  • They all look like Sontarans. [] So the next generation of space explorers need no necks?

  • by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @10:19AM (#46583775) Homepage

    To me, this suit seems extremely bulky, with poor visibility. The accent lighting, as presented seems rather useless and a waste of precious energy reserves. And I know it doesn't, but it sure looks like it is forcing the astronaught's head to be contorted forward.

    Is it sad that I could create a far better suit design in one day? (Engineering aside)

    So if I was to design a suit, I would first look at the human body, visibility and safety.

    - structure the suit for a relaxed body position, especially for space walks and low gravity (think more like the Craftmatic Contour bed)

    - increase the dome size, come on we should be able to give our astronaughts good periphereal vision (why not a larger and closer to whole hemisphere dome)

    - add display screens in front of the astronaught's portal, these would be hooked up to cameras that give a full 360 degree coverage and a location map of all parties (other astronaughts, shuttles, station, satellites, etc)

    - illumination, sure, have a light source, thats a given. But if we're going to do LED wires and such they should involve the following. 1) Display a color for identification purposes (perhaps around helmet) 2) display state and well being of the astronaught. (in this case a pattern that is color coded, and can display from green to red the current oxygen reserves, energy reserves, pressure levels, and basic 'naught vitals)

    - functionality...hands are great, but there are times you need a third hand. The suit seems to have nothing for assisting tasks. I'd add a Kangaroo pouch on the belly. This would allow the astronaught to essentially have a pouch that can be expanded to contain things. I'd equip each forearm with a grasping clasp. Say I need a wrench, I can just set it on my forearm and it will clamp down and hold it. I see very little design in this suit to assist with functionality.

    - feet, these should be adaptable. If I am in space free floating, something with magnetic or even suck type system makes more sense. Versus a suit to explore say an asteroid or Mars, in which a different foot pattern would be beneficial. So I'd make a sort of replaceable sole - like horseshoes.

    - tethering? I see nothing to facilitate tethering amongst astronaughts

    - utility/mission hardpoints, I'd want a suit that easily allowed dockable modules. Extended oxygen supplies, etc. Not sure the design pictured would be easily modified to support such.

    - plasma cannons, clearly the suit should be equipped with plasma cannons or an extended range particle projection cannon.

  • I'd rather see this:

    http://news.nationalgeographic... []

  • .. is a spacesuit that doesn't drown the occupant in his/her condensation. Because drowning is not very stylish, or so I'm told.
  • I'd rather they went retro and just use the suits from "2001" back in '68.
  • Uuumm why? Our space program seems to lack any usable goals. Why don't we put this cash into a new shuttle design or something else that we can use to get into space again instead? Having to hitch a ride from the Russian's should be motivation (and embarrassment) enough to put a hold on the new space threads. Or maybe better put, Hey NASA it's 2014 where's my freak'n space car I want off this rock!
  • Seriously, they're all functionally the same suit, just with three different-but-equally-hokey electro-luminescent designs. I appreciate what NASA is trying to do here in terms of involving the public. Their intentions are laudable. This is as close to literal "bikeshedding" as it gets, though, and so it feels more than a little patronizing. Evidently what NASA thinks that the public cares about is style and no substance. Maybe that's not as untrue as I wish it were, but I can't see something like this as a

  • Why do they all have to make you look like stumpy legged, hunch backed aliens?

    They're all as bad as each other. It's a superficial skin so they can promote it as "the space suit the public wanted".


"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger